President Barack Obama confirmed Tuesday evening that he will go to Russia this fall for the G20 summit but expressed disappointment that Moscow had granted temporary asylum to NSA leaker government contractor Edward Snowden.
Speaking with Jay Leno on an episode of NBC's "The Tonight Show" that is to be broadcast Tuesday night, the president said Russia sometimes still slips into a Cold War mentality. He did not mention whether he would attend a separate one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The White House has said it is evaluating whether that meeting makes sense.
During the interview, Obama also said the recent threat that caused the United States to close embassies throughout the Middle East was significant, Reuters reports.
"It's a reminder that for all the progress we've made ... this radical, violent extremism is still out there," Obama said. "We've got to stay on top of it."
Earlier Tuesday, The New York Times reported that Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will meet in Washington with their Russian counterparts on Friday for a day of talks that could determine the fate of the summit.
State Department officials Tuesday afternoon confirmed the meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, said the four officials would discuss “a number of pressing bilateral and global issues.”
“There’s a lot to discuss,” Psaki told the Times. “A lot of issues we work together on. I expect those to be the thrust of the conversation.”
Russian officials echoed the theme.
“We expect a very intensive discussion, all the more so because there are quite a few sharp, controversial and difficult questions,” Sergei Ryabkov, the deputy foreign minister, said Tuesday.
American officials have signaled that Russia’s decision to grant Snowden temporary asylum undermined the bilateral relationship and could affect whether Obama agrees to travel to Moscow after attending the G20 meeting in St. Petersburg on Sept. 5 and 6. He had planned to go from there to meet Putin.
Snowden remained in seclusion Tuesday, having made no public appearances or statements since he left Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow on Thursday.
On Tuesday, his lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, said Snowden had received an official residence permit required for any foreigner to live in the country, though he again declined to discuss his client’s exact whereabouts. He also said that he had extended an official invitation to help Snowden’s father and friends get visas to visit him in Russia.